That's What It Takes to Kill You
July 11, 2016
*Names throughout the article have been changed.
It is hard to imagine what it would be like waking up in a hospital bed, hundreds of kilometres away from home, only to find out that you have been in a coma for six weeks. That you are paralyzed. That you are missing a leg.
And that – all things considered – you should be dead.
But that was the reality for Aaron 11 years ago.
"I was probably the last guy it should have happened to, because I work with power all the time"
More than a decade after (as he and his wife put it) "it all went down", we find ourselves sitting in his kitchen as a misty rain clouds the windows. Aaron sits in his wheelchair across from us at the table. His wife, Maria, sits to his left, looking at her husband with such deep devotion and love, it almost makes us emotional.
"Living on a farm... what can you say? Swimmin' in the river, tossin' hay... It's really not work because it seems like you're just playing with your dad all the time."
We can tell by the way Aaron speaks about the colony, how much it truly means to him. About his childhood, the time spent with his father learning how to work the land, and the life that he has created just north of Belle Plaine, Saskatchewan.
"It's actually a very short story–" Aaron chuckles; which is only partly true.
It was a typical day in June – 11 years ago – at the Belle Plaine Hutterite Colony. Aaron, an active 21 year old man with an intense passion for farming, was carrying out his daily duties when he suddenly found himself fighting for his life.
"I was spraying a field. I had three more passes left, and I ran out of chemical, so I was heading back to the water truck to fill up..." The words are slow and meaningful as Aaron speaks. We wonder how many times he has told his story.
"As I was going back, I had to cross under a power line. One of the buttons malfunctioned on the joystick and the boom kept going up and I did not realize it. And it snagged the line,"
For most of us, it is hard to pinpoint an exact moment in our lives when the rug gets pulled out from under us; when everything changes. That instance where we realize there is no going back.
"They got me good and high on morphine – hopped up enough to kill a horse – and just waited."
But for Aaron, that moment could not have been more clear – or powerful.
"I was probably the last guy it should have happened to, because I work with power all the time... One of the rules of power is, it always takes the shortest route to ground–" Aaron's voice trails off for a moment before continuing. "But electricity didn't read the handbook and [didn't] follow rules."
Fearing what might have happened if he stayed in the vehicle, Aaron jumped as far as possible from the sprayer but received a life-threatening electrical shock.
"When you are twenty-one years old, you're Superman and nothing can happen to you. And then it happens. And the first thing I thought as I was lighting up like a light bulb was, ˜Oh crap, I knew I shouldn't have done that.' But too late.
Aaron woke up laid out on the ground minutes later, his brother picking up his scorched body and carrying him back to his truck. He was taken to the Regina General Hospital where he was immediately put into a medically induced coma.
"Usually after three days, that's what it takes to kill you. Three days and your organs start shutting down," There is something incredibly powerful about hearing the man speak about his incident so candidly, but still understanding the intense gravity of it.
His family did the only thing that they could. They prepared themselves for the inevitable. "They got me good and high on morphine – hopped up enough to kill a horse – and just waited."
"What I did, I knew I shouldn't've done, and I did it anyway... That's the way accidents always are."
Two painstaking weeks passed.
Aaron laughs to himself; perhaps with disbelief, or pride, or a tinge of fear. "They just couldn't kill me."
Before he continues, Aaron is sure to preface what happened next: "It's not my story, I just heard it."
After two weeks in a coma, his family allegedly hired a private plane to circle above Regina once, with Aaron on board. His body certainly wouldn't be able to withstand the elevation and he would peacefully pass, flying above the Saskatchewan prairies.
The only thing was, Aaron didn't plan on going anywhere. His body fought on; he wasn't ready to give up. So what did the pilot do? "He had to go to Edmonton anyway, so that's where I woke up next."
It was another four weeks before Aaron was released from his coma. "My sister told me right off the bat, you lost your leg... I was like, ˜Yeah right, whatever... Legs are right here, what's your problem?' But your brain works in funny ways. It just kind of lets you in slowly, so by the time I realized I had even lost a leg... I was good with it."
"And all the kids know, they see me, they know what happened and just that'll give them a second thought."
It's been 11 years since Aaron had his incident. Seeing the man before us – one with such energy and vibrancy – it is easy to understand why his body simply would not give up. How could he die when there was so much life left to to live?
He sits in front of us, confident and proud. To this day, he is still working on the colony farm.
"I still row land, I cut hay, make silage. Everything's the same. I wouldn't say there's less work, I wouldn't say there's more work."
Maria pipes up, lovingly smiling at her husband. Proud. "He can do anything me and you can. It's just different." "Life is still life. You still have the same problems. Everything's the same. You just get from one place to another a little different."
Not harder. Not more painful. And never with a sense of disdain or self-doubt.
"What I did, I knew I shouldn't've done, and I did it anyway... That's the way accidents always are. I knew better. And all the kids know, they see me, they know what happened and just that'll give them a second thought."
The interview with Aaron and Maria wraps up, just in time for us to be given a take-home bag of pumpkin chocolate cookies. We only have one final question:
"What are you two looking forward to the most in the next ten years?"
After speaking to a series of different events and activities, Maria says with a smile "If the Lord wills, we'll have children one day." Perhaps then, one day in the future, Aaron's own children will be out in the fields with him learning how to farm; playing with their dad as they make memories together.
If your equipment contacts a power line, call SaskPower at 310-2220 or call 911 and stay put until help arrives. If your vehicle is on fire and you must exit, first make sure there are no wires in your way. Stand in the doorway, cross your arms, and put your feet together. Jump as far as possible, landing with your feet together. Do not touch the vehicle. Keep arms crossed with your feet together, and hop at least 10 meters to safety.